She never expected it to hit her hometown. When Hurricane Irene hit New Canaan, Connecticut, junior Jen Popper was shocked it struck her family’s home but not her home in Charleston.
“I was surprised that it was my parents barricading themselves in their house and not me,” Popper said. “A lot of my family was texting me asking if I was okay down here, but I was more worried about them.”
Like many out-of-state students, Popper could only gasp in disbelief that the hurricane was headed straight for New England, which is quite an unusual occurrence in the United States. Even though New Canaan suffered minimal damages such as fallen trees and power outages, the flooding and destruction was much worse nearer the water.
After Hurricane Irene skimmed the coast of South Carolina with Charleston narrowly avoiding its path, some students have let the occurrence slip past their minds in order to focus on the semester ahead, when in reality Hurricane Irene has affected students at the College more than most would imagine. It’s particularly worrisome because in the weeks since, the saturated ground in the Northeast has been causing record-breaking floods, which have chased thousands from their residences, even in towns that some students here call home.
But the effect is also being felt here in Charleston. In the wake of the hurricane, Folly Beach County Park, situated on the west end of the island, will be closed for the remainder of 2011 due to heavy erosion.
“The storm did significant damage to most of Folly Beach County Park,” said Phil Macchia, Director of Operations for Charleston County Parks and Recreation, in an interview with The Post and Courier. “We are currently addressing the damage issues and undergoing an agency-wide effort to clean the beach.” Although Folly Beach County Park is closed for the time being, the island’s beaches, fishing pier, and businesses are all open to the public, along with the county parks in both Kiawah and Isle of Palms.
Because the College is located near the coast, it has a well-developed and efficient plan in the event that there is a hurricane or tropical storm. One feature is CougarAlert, a system that not only calls, but also sends texts and e-mails to students and parents alike if there is the threat of or an actual emergency.
CougarAlert was implemented Aug. 26 in light of the looming Hurricane Irene to inform students of class cancellations. In the case of hazardous weather the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Residence Life will collaborate with the Charleston County emergency management operations to evacuate the campus quickly and safely. Students will then be transported to the gym at the University of South Carolina in Columbia until it is safe to return to Charleston.
Currently there are three named systems in the Atlantic: Hurricane Katia, Tropical Storm Maria, and Tropical Storm Nate. Although, none of them are direct threats to Charleston in the coming week. Hurricane Katia seems to be headed back out to the North Atlantic, while Tropical Storm Nate should only affect Mexico and the Gulf Coast. As of now, it is too early to judge where Tropical Storm Maria is going or rule out if it will hit the East Coast. However, if she decides to take a turn towards the College, there is a comprehensive severe weather procedure to keep students safe.